How to have Successful Interaction with Virtual Events

The most common concern people express about virtual events – webcasts, online classes, or virtual conferences/trade shows – is the apparent lack of communication between the hosts/speakers and the attendees of the event. Without face-to-face interaction, many are concerned that they will be unable to truly connect with their attendees and will therefore not have a very successful event. To help to ease these concerns, I’ve put together a few tips for how to make sure you get the most out of your online interaction.

  • Utilize text and/or video chat for Q&A’s throughout or after your presentation.
    • This feature is a fantastic way to make sure that any questions are answered thoroughly and possibly even better than they would be during an in-person event. If you pre-record your presentations – which is already highly recommended – you have the full duration of your presentation to interact with viewers.You can make connections with them at the beginning, by asking where they’re from, what companies they work for, what the weather is like where they are. You can then easily transition into answering questions. If they don’t seem to have many questions, I highly recommend having a few points to encourage discussion in the chat, such as additional tips or anecdotes. This makes everyone feel at ease and encourages questions and deeper discussion, allowing the attendees to get even more out of the event than an in-person one.

      If you choose to do a video chat Q&A, using a tool like livestream or Google Hangouts, you can really easily make the online event feel nearly identical to an in-person event. You can even invite viewers to join you on the video chat, allowing them to really be a part of the event.

  • Utilize chat in exhibit booths as well.
    • This is another way to make the transition from in-person to online seamless. As a booth administrator, you can reach out to attendees as they enter your booth, just as you would at an in-person event, and offer them some information about your company, services, or simply talk about the event.If your company has sponsored a session, that’s a great time to talk about it. Mention that the session is either coming up, or has happened (and is going to be available On Demand for their leisure), discuss the topic and what they can get from it.

      This approach is great because, instead of poking at the attendee with sales pitches, you’re making a connection with them. People with a connection to a company are far more likely to purchase from them, without the cognitive dissonance that comes from a guilt-based purchase made only to quiet a sales pitch.

  • Set up chat rooms outside of the presentation rooms.
    • This acts as sort of a networking lounge for the attendees and speakers. Instead of being boxed into the topic of a presentation, people are able to find others that are interested in the same topics, but move beyond them. Private chats are a great way for these attendees to ask further questions of the speaker or to connect with a possible business partner.These function exactly the way the outside hall of a conference center does, where attendees go to fill up on coffee and charge their laptops. This too makes the transition from in-person to online seamless.

Have you hosted online events before? What did you find helped you the most with encouraging interaction between attendees and the host/speakers?

 


 

Have any questions about hosting a virtual event and want a great platform that will help you every step of the way? Email us at sales@vconferenceonline.com

Find out all about our platform with this interactive demo. Or, go beyond the surface with this in-depth self-guided tour.

Happy event planning!

Getting beyond Marketing Emails

Every marketer’s dream is to have their ideal audience and potential clients come to them.

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Living the marketer’s dream.

No banner ads, spam marketing emails, or annoying commercials necessary – and it make an advertiser’s job easier. Hands-free marketing is the goal, right?

 

How do you make the marketing process so easy that your clients find you before they even know they’re looking for you?

Connect to your audience through education

That is a very broad way to say that your marketing strategy should first and foremost involve teaching your audience something that you know extremely well and that they want to learn about.

If you try to convince your audience that they should choose you you before they realize they want the services you even offer, you’ll annoy more people than you’ll close. Proving your trustworthiness and knowledge gets you in front of the competition before your potential client even knows they need you.

How do you do this?

  • Find a topic you know like the back of your hand (and they don’t).

In your sphere, there are problems that your audience is looking to solve. Chances are, you either have the solution to those problems or you know where to look to solve them. Do you have a large number of problems you know how to solve? Great! You can create an online class or a series of articles on it. By proving that you know what you’re talking about, you establish yourself as a trustworthy source. Your audience will come to you for solutions (and you’ll already be at the top of their list when they want to spend money).

  •  Talk about easy-to-tackle issues.

Don’t try to overwhelm your reader/viewer with too much information at once. Try to break up problems into smaller step-by-step solutions. If your audience comes to a webcast and realizes you’re going to be talking for three hours, they’re already checked out. Take it by small steps to make your information more accessible to your audience.

  • Don’t brush off your own expertise.

Whatever your end goal, whatever you aim to sell to your potential client, you are confident that it’s a good product or service. Don’t play down your knowledge or forget to mention how you can be so helpful to your audience. If you’re a doctor discussing what a symptom could mean, it helps the patient to trust you if they know you actually are a medical professional. Make it clear why you’re an authority on the topic.

Your ideal audience doesn’t necessarily know who you are, so if you approach them by telling them that you’re great, they’ll just ignore you like a flashing banner ad. Offer them something they need – like knowledge, helpful tips, etc. – and they’ll be much more likely to become a good lead for you.

This way, you also connect with people you know will be good, qualified leads. A smaller number of quality leads is better than a huge number of terrible ones that will never pay off. Don’t waste your time (or theirs).

Want to educate your audience with a virtual event? Check out how to get started here. Questions? Email us at sales@vconferenceonline.com

Your Speakers are Your Biggest Assets

A conference relies heavily on its content to market the event – which makes a lot of sense. If you see a movie trailer and hate the concept behind it, you aren’t likely to pay money to go see it, let alone waste your time with it.

Therefore, it is extremely important to have talented, comfortable, knowledgeable speakers for your event. If they are well-known, active in whatever community you are a part of, this makes them an even bigger asset. How do you use their influence to your benefit?

Many virtual event coordinators create banners or badges for their speakers to put on their website or blog. These will say something like “I am a speaker at x event” and link to the event. If you want to track how many people use the links from your speakers’ sites/blogs, you can always use a VIP or discount code.

Most public speakers have active social media accounts as well – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or a blog. These are another great opportunity for your speakers to proudly announce that they’ll be participating in the event and to encourage their peers and audience to join in on the event. With virtual events, this is even better – the followers are used to interacting with this person virtually, so communication during the event will be very effective.

Are your speakers running/part of their own companies outside of your event as well? That’s a great opportunity to set them up with a virtual event booth. They will be able to interact with attendees not only through their presentation and the chat you set up during/after, but in their booth as well. Curious attendees can learn more about the speaker’s company, which can be a huge selling point to get those popular speakers to participate in your event as well.

Make sure that your communication with your speakers is effective and frequent. This builds a relationship between you, ensuring that the speaker is having the best experience possible, encouraging them to participate in your events again in the future. Well-known speakers in your community often discuss with one another their experiences at events and if yours has been excellent, your speaker may have contacts that would be happy to participate in your future events as well!

Most of all – remember that without presenters, you would not have an event. Your speakers are very important and should be treated as such!

First Steps to a Virtual Event

In my company, we’re working on setting up our next virtual conference, so I figured I’d start writing some blogs about the whole process. I’ll go step by step as I personally start setting up our event, and you can see really what there is to do for it. At the end of it all, I’ll write up a quick bullet point post that shows all the points in order.

First step is making sure you really have an event. I’m positive you have the audience you need – all you have to do is to reach out to them – so that’s not even a step. You already know your goal with the event, you know you want to save money and time by doing it online – and reach more people.

You can watch the video below, or keep reading underneath it!

Truly, the first thing you should do is contact your speakers. What takes the most time during the setup for an event – especially a virtual event – is gathering your speakers, getting confirmation, contracts, session names, powerpoint slides, session abstracts, and of course the actual recording from your speaker.

You need to contact your hopeful speakers.

  • Contact more speakers than you’ll need, because there are bound to be some that will not be able to participate.
  • Have a date in mind – but do not set it in stone yet. If nearly all of your hopeful speakers can’t make the exact date you want, well, what’s the point?
  • Be flexible. Allow varied topics from the exact ones you’re looking for.
  • Make it relevant. The topics are actually more inviting than the speakers themselves to most attendees. If someone has never heard of Billy Bob but loves hearing about how to build your own spaceship, they won’t mind that they don’t know the speaker.
  • Get excited. Your speakers will reflect your energy. If you’re just going through the motions of another virtual event, if you’re already stressed, or you just plain don’t want to do it, you need to get into a better mindset and send more positive emails. If you sound excited, they’ll get excited too, and they’ll be more likely to participate.

Keep in mind – you won’t get all of your dream speakers – and that’s okay! You’ll get great people participating in your event, and you and your attendees will have a blast.

Everything tends to fall in place in the end – just keep your plans flexible.

Help Viewers Understand First

Many people approach a webcast or virtual conference session as an opportunity to sell. This ends up driving the content for the session, and it drives the focus and presentation style as well.

While it’s certainly possible to present a “pre-sales” type presentation with information about your product or service in hopes of driving the sale, you might want to consider a different approach, particularly if you don’t have a captive audience.  A “captive audience” is one that can’t leave, that must watch your presentation.  This might be the case if you’re presenting sales training or other required materials.

But, if you’re talking with potential customers, or trying to woo customers into upgrades and enhanced service offerings, presenting a sales pitch or making sure you cover your marketing bullet points might be the last thing you really want to present.  You’ll probably find that this causes people to click away, to stop listening and to become disengaged with your message, brand and presentation.

It’s just too easy to click away, or become distracted with email or have a thousand other things that get in the way of the attendee’s attention.  An online presentation is, by necessity, a different animal from an in-person presentation.  You need to turn on the expertise, the creativity and answer the “what can you do for me” question that all of the attendees are struggling with in their own minds.

To do this, consider providing information.  REAL information – lessons learned, best practices, etc.  These are the things a viewer can watch, learn from, and apply to their own world.  Talk about things you’ve run into.  Talk about customers and situations that have come up that show you have both a sense of humor and a problem-solving approach.

When you provide real-world information and experience, and you provide take-away, actionable information, the viewer will appreciate it.  You’ll be seen as the expert, the one to go to for more information, more services.  With an online presentation, it’s much more like a conversation with a viewer than a presentation AT a viewer.

Here are some quick ideas to get you started:

  • Provide a quick 5 or 10 tip best practices sheet they can download.
  • Provide an idea sheet that gives unique ideas that can spur other ideas the viewer can use to be successful.
  • Provide a “common pitfalls, and how to avoid them” sheet
  • Give a checklist of things to cover or consider

By providing takeaways, and giving actionable items, your viewer will be engaged and care about what you’re presenting.  It’s not enough to just have great slides.  Give a worksheet or other item that can be put into play immediately.  Make the viewer look good in the eyes of their boss and/or customers and you’ll immediately be seen as a benefit to their work, and you can show that you’re trustworthy.

Sure, you can show a slide or two about your product or service at the end, but first give the viewer something they can relate to and depend on.  Then help them see how your offering can help.

One last thing – don’t handicap the information you provide.  In other words, provide ALL fully-usable information in the sheets or takeaways you provide.  Don’t give 3, then say “contact me for the other 10.”  You’ll only make your viewer resent you and feel like the whole thing was a setup for sales.

People understand that sales are needed, they just don’t want to be sold.  Help them understand first.  The sales and marketing will follow.

Do Virtual Events Hurt Your In-Person Events?

This question comes up quite a bit.  The short answer… if you do it right, is…

No.

If you can market the virtual event in conjunction with the in-person event, you end up boosting the value of the in-person event.  If you market one, then move to the other, then back again, the messaging can get very confusing to your audience.  You need to work the shows together, then you can clearly show how your audience benefits from each venue.

One of the successful things that is done is using the online event as a promotional tool, but also as a pre-event tool.  Using this approach, you can help your audience attend the in-person event in possibly a more prepared, informed way.  Here are some ideas to help integrate the two types of events:

  • Hold pre-conference pre-sessions.  These sessions are presented by your speakers and include information that will get the audience ready for the in-person event.  Of course you don’t need (or want) to present the entire in-person session, but you can present the items that help people better understand what will be shown.
  • Consider pre- and post-conference classes or supporting sessions.  You can offer these as an add-on to your in-person registration.  These can be multi-session presentations and provide deep information for attendees.  Then, when they come to the event, they can learn how to apply and further use the information from the pre-con.  These can also be a way to get deeper involved in the materials presented, since the multiple sessions will be focused on a single topic whereas sessions in the in-person event typically are single sessions and stand alone.
  • Use pre-sessions to introduce topics and introduce homework to get people thinking along common lines.
  • Use virtual events to provide additional information about and by your vendors and sponsors.  These virtual events are great ways to further leverage your relationships with your sponsors and provide additional opportunity for the sponsors to interact with and gain information from your audience.  Keep in mind, you can keep the virtual event online after the in-person event, so your vendors can continue working with your audience in on-demand mode.
  • Consider adding “best of” type sessions after the in-person event has completed.  You can add them to the virtual event and use it as an additional touch point to work with your audience.  Simply capture the sessions at the in-person event, then announce that you’ll be adding the top 5 (or 10 or whatever works well for you) sessions to the virtual event in the weeks following the event.
  • Consider live-streaming your keynote presentations or key presentations from industry experts – this can further integrate your events (online and virtual) and show why people should attend both.  They get to see the live session and they get to experience the online virtual event.

There are a whole host of ways you can leverage virtual conferences, webcasts and webinars and in-person events.  From marketing to extending content to outreach to follow-up, the virtual event platform can significantly boost your in-person events.

As you write up your attendee and sponsor offerings, consider adding an option to add the virtual event items you’ll be offering.  Do the inverse on the virtual event registration – adding options to include the in-person event.  By integrating the two, you can leverage your audience, not split your messaging and gain additional ways people can take in your events, talk with sponsors and more.

Virtual events can be a powerful add-on and powerful marketing tool for your in-person events.  So many people make the mistake of assuming it’s one or the other for their audience.  Done right however, it allows you to extend your in-person event’s interaction with your audience in exciting ways.

Keep Virtual Event Attendees Engaged

Keeping attendees engaged is a tough battle with an online event.  Let’s face it, distractions abound!  Email arrives, instant messages beckon, heck just typing a new URL in the browser is a threat to their attention to your event.

What can you do to retain attendees – to keep their attention and make the event all it can be for them and for you and your stakeholders?

One thing that has worked repeatedly is the use of between-session messaging and content.  As you move through your event, offer additional content between sessions.  Rather than just showing “the next session starts in 5 minutes” type messages, consider putting additional content, tips and other elements in the space between sessions.

Here are some great examples that work very well, time after time:

  • Interview the speakers – talk to them about real-life, ask for advice, talk about their pets.  Basically what you’re looking to do is to help your speakers be “real” to your audience, help your audience get to know the speaker.  These are very powerful and can be relatively short.  If you’re concerned about topics, pick a central 2 or 3 topics, then ask the same questions to each speaker.  This can be things like “what’s your favorite board game” or “what movies have you seen recently” or “are you a dog or a cat person?”  All of these are great ice-breakers and can can offer a bit of fun between sessions.
  • Add polls between sessions – ask questions of your attendees, see what you can learn, and then present, about your audience.  Perhaps even ask the same questions as those above.  Then you can get a feel for your audience and help them relate to the content presented.
  • Add contests – have treasure hunts in the virtual environment have treasure hunts in the sponsor’s and speaker’s web sites.  This is a great way to get people involved and learning all that’s available.  You can even score the activities (for every “X” you find, you gain 20 points) – then award a keychain or t-shirt to the winner by points.
  • Have chats on Twitter or in the chat tools – guide the chats to include materials just presented (the speaker may be able to provide interesting topics and questions) or on completely unrelated topics to help people get to know one-another.
  • Create news segments – talk about very recent headlines between sessions.  Make sure the headlines are related to the event.  Perhaps even just one or two headlines, then suggest people move to chat or social media you have integrated into the event to discuss the headline.  Be sure to give them your opinion (or the opinion of the person presenting the headlines) on the items.
  • Have a fun mini-session – this could be an exercise session, a yoga session, stretching that you can lead.  This can also be a completely spoof-based segment.  Remember, it’s only a few minutes maximum.  Have fun with it.

By doing these types of activities, attendee retention jumps by up to 80%.  These are real benefits and can substantially impact your event, the attendees involvement in your show and their impression overall for the event.

Foolproof Marketing Strategy – Across All Channels

A question people are always asking is, “How do you profit from _____?” The entire point of marketing, digital or otherwise, is always trying to turn a profit. That’s the point of selling products or services, right?

Wrong.

I’m going to tell you a secret that I’ve learned from endlessly researching “how to market correctly.”

Focus on your content and how it will help people.

That sounds cheesy and it probably is. After all, we don’t give our services and products away; we sell them! Why wouldn’t we focus on the money we ought to be getting for what we sell?

Customers are more annoyed with marketers than ever. They fast-forward through commercials, ignore banner ads, and generally just scoff at any kind of advertising ploys we try. They’ve seen our tricks plenty of times and they’re tired of it. This is where content marketing, digital marketing, and so many other kinds of marketing become frustrating for all parties.

This is why you should focus on your content. If someone sees your content, understands that you’re trying to help them achieve some goal, they are much more likely to want to buy your product or service, because they know that you can really be an asset to them.

Stop trying to focus on your profits – though don’t sell yourself short. However, if you focus on helping people, they will see your intentions and like you more for it – and that is where the profit comes.

Great Resource for your Digital Marketing Projects

If you haven’t seen it, check out The Outreach Marketing Virtual Summit (it’s free) – it includes key information from a whole host of experts.  There is so much great information in this free event – it’s incredible.

Here’s the direct link:
http://www.vconferenceonline.com/event/home.aspx?id=1092

This was a project by GroupHigh, an outreach marketing firm that rocks working in this space.  They have a great toolset, and the series of sessions they put together are excellent.

There is also a session there by me (Stephen Wynkoop) about virtual events and how they work in the marketing cycle.  What’s more, you can see the platform in action and check out some examples.

Enjoy!

Producing Content – horses for courses

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison
Producer
vConferenceOnline

Producing Content – horses for courses

So I talked about the importance of video in creating an engaging presentation. So for this last article let’s get into some real world HOW.
You’ve decided “Josh is right, we should use video in our event.” Congratulations, you’ve made the right choice! Now how do you do it? Let’s set out some example scenarios:

Scenario 1: Your online only event has 6 different presenters. The budget won’t allow for in-studio professional video production. They all have slide deck presentations and want to stick to that plan. The presenters are all in different areas of the world, but you want to give the event a cohesive feel.

Solution:  Not a problem! We have a tool that allows presenters to record their desktops to include slides, full motion computer demonstrations and yes, their webcam! You arrange for a slide deck design treatment that they all use and you make suggestions for webcam placement and lighting in a simple to read document that we provided you. The speakers make quick test recordings and send them in for approval. Everyone agrees it looks and sounds good. They go about recording their full presentations and you smile with satisfaction in a job well done.

Scenario 2: Your in person event is going to include a bonus online event. You need to record and document all presentations and the keynotes. You’d like to offer the online event a week after the in person event for anyone who missed anything. Both in person attendees and non attendees.

Solution:  We discuss your needs and decide that you need a multi-camera production. Our crew designs a production equipment package and travels to your event to record the show. We work closely with your team to ensure that all required moments are captured and we setup the event online to allow for scheduled playback of these videos the following week. You just grew your event attendance, not to mention your event’s income.

Scenario 3: You’ve decided you want to take that same event to the people live over the internet!

Solution:  We add on a live streaming package to the already fully planned production package and you have created urgency and excitement for those that couldn’t attend in person.

Scenario 4: You are having an online event with your company’s top executives. This needs to be polished and professional. Production quality is very important. The event will be live with on-demand versions of the presentations available after the live event.

Solution:  We invite you out to our production studios in Tucson Arizona. Our producers work with you to decide show flow and set design. The required content and rehearsals are scheduled. Everyone knows what is happening when and where they should be. Our well designed studio gives your event that high end look you were after and your executives appreciate the chance to tee off at some of the world’s best golf courses after the event.

I could go on and on as there are many different scenarios. The point is that we can handle any of them and we help you along the way. That is a major separator for us as a platform provider.

I hope these quick articles have been informative, or at least entertaining. “Like TV”.